If the rest of the world shared America’s meat-heavy diet, there would be no fresh water left on the planet, according to the world’s largest food company.
“Nestle thinks one-third of the world’s population will be affected by fresh water scarcity by 2025, with the situation only becoming more dire thereafter and potentially catastrophic by 2050 [emphasis added],” reads a secret U.S. report, made public by WikiLeaks.
The document, Tour D’Horizon With Nestle: Forget the Global Financial Crisis, the World Is Running Out of Fresh Water, was written by U.S. Embassy officers after visiting Nestle’s Swiss headquarters in 2009. During the meeting, the food industry giant shared its grave concerns for the future, including the startling revelation that global fresh water resources would have run dry 15 years ago had the U.S. diet been adopted by all six billion humans on the planet.
Producing one calorie of meat requires 10 times as much water as producing one calorie of food crops, Nestle explained. The current U.S. diet provides about 3,600 calories per day “with substantial meat consumption,” and “[a]s the world’s growing middle classes eat more meat, the earth’s water resources will be dangerously squeezed.”
In Nestle’s estimation, “There is not nearly enough fresh water available to provide this standard to a global population expected to exceed nine billion by mid-century.”
Political and military conflicts due to water shortages have already emerged in the Middle East. A set of classified U.S. cables published on WikiLeaks in 2008 describe how drought in Syria contributed to the civil war that has flooded Europe with its refugees.
In Yemen, 14 of the country’s 16 aquifers ran dry in 2009, with U.S. Ambassador Stephen Seche writing, “Water shortages have led desperate people to take desperate measures with equally desperate consequences.”
Meanwhile, Nestle has incurred much public criticism for pumping as much water out of drought-ravaged California as it can.